Military assures Mindanao bishops it will uphold peace process

Boy Belocura, Capalla's secretary, told MindaNews the meeting, which was also attended by Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza, was called by the bishops to respond to the Basilan crisis.

Belocura furnished MindaNews a copy of the statement entitled "Mindanao Bishops Statement: Government – AFP officials inform bishops re Basilan crisis."

Acting Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales, Armed Forces chief Hermogenes Esperon, and GRP peace panel Chair Rodolfo Garcia met with the seven bishops at the Archbishop’s Palace here.

Aside from Capalla, those present were Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Valles, Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad, Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar, Surigao Bishop Antonietto Cabajog and Digos Bishop Guillermo Afable.

The meeting was described as a private caucus where the bishops "listened to government and AFP officials explain their actions and plans on the Basilan crisis."

The statement said the three officials assured the Mindanao bishops that there will be an impartial investigation of the July 10 "Basilan ambush and fighting incident," that the present military positions in Mindanao will be on hold, and that the "limited military objective operation" against the perpetrators of the beheaded Marines will be launched only after verification of their identities in coordination with the MILF.

The moratorium on statements about the MILF in Basilan, which was part of the agreement during a recent meeting of the Joint Committees on the Cessation of Hostilities, was also stressed.

The military, as quoted by the bishops' statement, said they will maintain restraint in the use of words, especially in public.

It was not known if the BUC will have a separate meeting or why the meeting was not called by the BUC, including the Ulama and other non-Catholic bishops.

But the statement said the bishops, concerned over the possible collateral damage arising from a full blown war, support the peace process, and the military's upholding of the peace negotiations.

The bishops also batted for immediate unbiased investigation of the "brutal beheadings" of the Marines, the indispensable need for a respectful dialogue as well as the continuing communication between the two panels, offering the bishops as possible channels.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was in Zamboanga City Friday to meet with police and AFP officials on the same day teams from the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and MILF Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities (CCCH) and Bantay Ceasefire, the civilian monitoring group, proceeded to Basilan to conduct a three-day investigation on the July 10 incident. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)

Comments

comments